The city of Edson is testing a new emergency shelter that officials hope will translate into a long-term solution to help people without a home get a good night’s sleep in rural Alberta.
Five small rooms, known as pods, have been carved out of the back of a recycling building in downtown 200 kilometers west of Edmonton to accommodate people who need a place to stay overnight .
The pods opened a little over a month ago and since then, the pods have been used almost 100 times.
All the smaller rooms have room for a mat, water bottles and a bag.
Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara said it was a safe way to give people a place to live.
“It seems to be working great,” he said.
Zahra said that earlier, the building was being used as a temporary shelter.
“What is happening is that homeless individuals will end up crawling through the building openings and staying the night,” Zahra said.
People using the pods can press an intercom button on the side of the building, which connects to a phone monitored by a volunteer.
The volunteer takes the person’s name and opens the door via a phone app.
The client can then go into the pod and receive a sticky note with the password for the electrical keypad on the outside so they can leave the pod open overnight.
Customers can access the pods between 8 PM and 11 PM on a first come, first served basis.
Erica Snook-Pennings, a program manager with the Edson Friendship Center Housing Plus Program, is one of four volunteers who monitor shelter pod phones.
She said that in the last one month, around 20 persons are using the pods.
“That, to me, is huge,” she said. “I know people can go in and close a door, they can sleep and their stuff isn’t being stolen. And they can actually sleep.”
Snook-Pennings has been working on the project since September and four members of the community take turns monitoring the phone.
fill a need
There is no other designated official shelter in Edson.
Zahra said many non-domesticated sofa surfers or find other places to sleep such as sheds in one’s backyard between the doors of apartment buildings or other facilities.
Many, Snook-Pennings said, live in an informal shelter run by a pastor who died last year, and its future is now unknown.
a local effort
Edson City Council committed $64,000 to the Pod Shelter project.
Zahra said several organizations donated money and local companies did the electricity, heating and floor work.
“We see this as a pilot project with a concrete solution to see if it can actually work in Alberta,” Zahara said.
“We hope that if this is successful other rural communities can learn from us and perhaps even give them the opportunity to have these types of pods in their communities.”